Thomas Tuchel wants ‘statement’ Bayern performance against Bayer Leverkusen

By Sports Desk February 09, 2024

Bayern Munich head coach Thomas Tuchel is targeting a “statement performance” to end the 30-match unbeaten run of title rivals Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen hold a two-point lead over Saturday’s visitors at the top of the Bundesliga after winning 16 and drawing four of their 20 league games this season.

Xabi Alonso’s side can also boast a 100 per cent record in the group stage of the Europa League and twice came from behind in the German Cup on Tuesday to beat Stuttgart 3-2 and advance to the semi-finals.

However, Bayern can call on their experience of winning 11 consecutive Bundesliga titles and Tuchel believes his side have room for improvement as they approach the business end of the season.

“It’s exciting that two teams are earning points at such a high level,” Tuchel told a pre-match press conference.

“We’ve also had a very good campaign in terms of our history. We’re completely focused on what we can do. We want a statement performance. If we want to win, we need a top performance.

“It’s the week in which we want to prove ourselves. We’re playing for our own objectives, and our objective is to step things up a notch, and then we can be fine in every game. Then we’ve got the individual quality for it. We’re ready to improve.”

Tuchel’s side also have the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Lazio to look forward to and the 50-year-old added: “We have a very attractive week ahead of us.

“A win for Leverkusen opens up a gap, but it won’t be over, although it feels like a special moment to lay your cards on the table. It’s about challenging ourselves and therefore the opponent from the first second to the last.

“We want to take the next step. Leverkusen are having an outstanding season. We’ve still got room for improvement. We feel ready to take the next step and want to push Leverkusen.”

Alphonso Davies remains sidelined with a tendon injury but Joshua Kimmich, Kim Min-jae and Dayot Upamecano have returned to training and are set to be in the matchday squad.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has been struggling with a knee problem, was set to take part in training on Friday before a decision is taken over whether he or Sven Ulreich will make the starting XI.

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    Xabi Alonso said it was an honour to manage Bayer Leverkusen to their first Bundesliga title after the runaway leaders clinched the trophy in style with a 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen.

    Leverkusen were crowned German champions for the first time in their 120-year history with a dominant win which saw Florian Wirtz net a second-half hat-trick at an ecstatic BayArena.

    Victor Boniface had opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Granit Xhaka doubled the lead with a long-range effort.

    Alonso, who committed his future to Leverkusen after being linked with former clubs Liverpool and Bayern Munich earlier this season, lauded the “special” achievement after winning his first major trophy in management.

    “This success is special for everyone, for the entire club. It belongs to so many people,” the 42-year-old Spaniard said after the match, as reported by Kicker.

    “We have to enjoy winning this for the entire club. The first championship in 120 years. It’s an honour to be part of it and working here. Today we deserve to celebrate, with family, friends and fans.”

    Leverkusen remain unbeaten during a fairy-tale campaign which could yet yield even more silverware.

    They hold a 2-0 first-leg lead over West Ham in the Europa League quarter-finals – the second leg takes place in London on Thursday – and also have a DFB Pokal final against Kaiserslautern to look forward to next month.

    “It may not be the last party of the current season,” Alonso added.

    “We still have a big goal in the Europa League. We have a good chance to be in the semi-finals and also in the cup, the feeling is incredible.”

    Boniface opened the scoring against Werder with a 25th-minute penalty before former Arsenal captain Xhaka made it 2-0 on the hour.

    Wirtz then took centre stage, adding a third in the 68th minute to all but end any doubts about the result or title, before the 20-year-old completed his hat-trick with two more goals in the closing stages.

    Wirtz said: “It’s indescribable. I can’t even realise it yet. I need to be in the dressing room for a while to get my head around what we’ve achieved.”

    Fellow Germany international Jonas Hofmann, who joined Leverkusen last summer from Borussia Monchengladbach, added: “Everything really flows through the body. You don’t know: should you laugh? Should you cry? It’s really indescribable, I wouldn’t have dreamed of this a year ago, in the first year to do it straight away. That’s just awesome.

    “We constantly pushed ourselves to the limit every game, no matter who was playing. We were always there, always present.

    “This season you can see that everyone is needed so that the level doesn’t (drop) off. Then you’ll be able to play like that in three competitions. The coach is setting a brutal example of that.”

    Leverkusen’s success ends Bayern’s 11-year reign as German champions, with Borussia Dortmund back in 2012 the last team to deny them top spot.

    Bayern, who are currently a massive 16 points behind Leverkusen after a largely disappointing season for Thomas Tuchel’s side, were quick to applaud the new title winners.

    “Congratulations to Bayer Leverkusen on a historic first Bundesliga title in the club’s history,” Bayern president Herbert Hainer said.

    “The title goes absolutely deservedly to Leverkusen – it’s the reward for an outstanding season and great football.

    Bayern chief executive Jan-Christian Dreesen added: “They’ve had a flawless season so far, the team have demonstrated courage, class and above all consistency, and that’s why they deserve to be 2024 German champions.”

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    A statement on Roma’s official X – formerly Twitter – account read: “Following the on-field medical emergency involving Evan Ndicka, the match between Udinese and Roma has been suspended.

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    In yet another twist in the title run-in, the Gunners were well beaten as Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins struck within three minutes of one another to stun the home fans.

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    Asked if he was concerned Arsenal’s season could fizzle out – much as it did last season – from this point, Arteta’s reply was bullish.

    “If one result is going to do that then we are not strong enough,” said the Spaniard, whose side had been unbeaten in the league in 2024 .

    “That’s very simple. We had one of the best performances that we’ve had all season in the first half against a really good team. It should have been three or four (goals) or more. It didn’t happen. In the second half the momentum shifted.

    “We could not control and generate what we did in the first half. We conceded two very poor goals and we lost the game.

    “Congratulate the opponent and stand up. Now the moment is to stand up and be counted. When you win and win and win for four months it’s very simple to do it. The moment to do it is now.”

    Villa were brilliant in a second half they dominated and their superiority eventually paid off as substitute Bailey tapped home at the back post before Watkins took advantage of Arsenal’s high line to burst through on goal and finish with aplomb.

    The visitors had also hit the woodwork through both Watkins and Youri Tielemans and Arsenal must now recover ahead of the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, with the tie evenly-poised at 2-2.

    “If you want to win championships, if you want to be there in the Champions League, when you have these moments you have to stand up,” added Arteta.

    “If not that means that you don’t have a quality that is very necessary. Now it’s a big test for us.

    “In any other league in the world if you won the number of games in a row that we did, you would be six or eight points clear. That is not the case here. That is the challenge.”

    This was former Arsenal boss Emery’s first trip to the Emirates Stadium with his Villa side – who moved three points clear of Tottenham to strengthen their hold on fourth place in the quest for Champions League football.

    “Of course, beating Arsenal here is very difficult and we needed to play and be focused 100 per cent and be very demanding in everything,” he said.

    “We needed the biggest commitment to do better than we did against Manchester City (a 4-1 loss) that was the sample we used for this match.

    “This is the level I want to get to with our players and progressively, we are getting better.”

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